Australia is one of the first markets to sell the new Subaru Impreza range. Available in four variations, the R, RX and RS models are powered by a 2.0-litre petrol boxer engine and the WRX with its 2.5-litre petrol turbo boxer, which for $39,990 is amazing value for money for a car that travels from 0 to 100 in 5.8 seconds.

The new Impreza range is safer, lighter and more fuel-efficient than its predecessor. In some cases the model range is close to a $1,000 less; in others only $50 dearer than the previous models.

Impreza has achieved a maximum 5-star rating for occupant protection in crashworthiness testing by the independent Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) and the highest possible four-star pedestrian rating. Subaru now has a 5-star rating over its entire model range and, with the Impreza, is the first locally tested Australian specification vehicle to achieve the ultimate double star rating.

Innovations such as the Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) stability system are standard across the entire Impreza line-up, along with six airbags (dual front, side and curtain). Furthermore, ABS, ESP and all-wheel drive are also equipped across the range, something that few other small cars can offer.

We drove two models in the range, the R and the RS, unfortunately both as automatics. All models come standard with 5-speed manual gearboxes, including the turbo WRX, while a 4-speed automatic can be optioned with all non-turbo models.

Yes, the cabin is quieter, the car feels more rigid, and the list of standard features is impressive, but the automatic sports shift transmission left me a little underwhelmed. The automatic choke is also a little intrusive at start, from cold, with the engine noticeably revving a lot higher. I am sure though, with a manual, the driving experience would be considerably different. Though driven a leisurely pace on country roads and around the city the auto is a pleasure to drive.

While the new Impreza’s cabin is claimed by Subaru to offer greater space, the space provided is still a little cramped compared to others in its class. The fact that the engine and transmission are transversally mounted, something the long bonnet emphasizes, impinges on the cabin space. One of the consequences is that the Impreza has limited front-seat foot room and not a lot of extra room is able to be achieved with moving the seat back, though the steering wheel is now height and reach adjustable.

The dash has a flowing, curvaceous design that sweeps back slightly and flows through to the doors from each side of the centre console. The plastic trim is attractive, and the location of the audio and air-conditioning control units, high in the centre, makes them easy to reach and operate. The deeply recessed instruments, with white on black graphics, could benefit from permanent illumination to make them more visible in all light conditions. Storage includes a useful sized centre console box, a tray in front of the gear lever with a rubber mat and door bins with bottle holders.

The 2008 Impreza range is currently only available in hatch form, with sedan versions of the Impreza not available in Australia until next year. The new Impreza WRX STI will be launched in early 2008. Its ergonomics and space have been improved, and its safety credentials are impeccable. It is a much more refined, sophisticated and comfortable car than its predecessor and, at base model level, represents good value at $24,490.


Price: $24,490-$39,990

Engine: Petrol 2.0-litre four, 2.5-litre turbo four

Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic

Power: 110kW, 169kW; 196Nm, 329Nm

Fuel: 8.9, 10.7

Good: Great safety and features list

Bad: Auto transmission

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